This was the first post I had in my “coming out” as a blogger…and it’s still one of my favorites. The pictures here were professional quality, several notches or miles above my point and shoot camera. The recipe reminds me of Italy, and the colorful pepperonata serves as a side dish, a condiment for fish or chicken. I’ve even layered this with hummus to make veggie sandwiches.
Re run, yes. But worth revisiting!
Despite the fact that it’s been more than a decade since I learned about Pepperonata, I remember the day like it was yesterday. My sister Susan and I made plans to meet in Italy and quickly set our sights on Tuscany. Before we even set foot in the beautiful bucolic town of Radda, we knew that the five days we were about to spend there would be the highlight of our trip. We would immerse ourselves in the culinary world of “Tutti a Tavola” (All to the Table!) – a cooking school that promised to teach us to cook as the Tuscans do. We learned about so much more than cooking. Four Tuscan “mammas” – Mimma, Lele, Franca and Simonetta – welcomed us into their homes, their kitchens and their hearts and taught us about true Italian hospitality where friendship, family and good food combine.
The small, hands-on classes started in the late afternoon as the fading light turned the hills and vineyards deep shades of gold and umber. Each day we would assemble in the kitchen, gaze across the tables laden with colorful produce and fresh herbs and crusty breads and listen to the mammas explain that day’s recipes. We then rolled up our sleeves, stood side by side, and, as laughter filled the kitchen, prepared simple, delicious and seasonal Italian fare.
These beautiful women had so much fun together, and their kitchens were magnificent. The simplicity of their counter spaces and bright colors on display inspired my own kitchen in Seattle. They each used authentic Tuscan ceramic platters to serve their food – hand made in a ceramics studio just down the road. At one point I asked Mimma if it worried her that she might chip or break her serving ware. She replied that these items were made to be used and loved so a slight crack or chip was nothing to worry about! From that day forward I vowed to stop reserving my “nice” dishes and platters for special occasions. Today I use each and every kitchen utensil and dish I’ve collected over the years – often serving breakfast on one-of-a-kind plates I collected. After all, why have them tucked away on a shelf or inside a closet?
Even more memorable than the kitchens and the cookware, however, is the food. And Pepperonata is, perhaps, my favorite recipe from these days in Tuscany. Not only is it savory and delicious – it is beautiful. The bold colors of yellow, green and red peppers mixed with bright tomatoes and caramelizing onions – all glistening with the best olive oil… it is a work of art. And the best part is its adaptability. I often serve Pepperonata warm as a vegetable side dish. Other times I toss leftovers into an omelet along with pungent goat cheese. It can also be folded into pasta along with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or used as a flavorsome condiment for fish or chicken. I have sliced the peppers in slivers instead of cubes and topped bruschetta or homemade pizza with this mixture too. Warm or cold, it always delights my palate.
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lbs peppers, seeded and diced into ½ inch squares (use a variety of colors)
- 1 lb brown skinned onions, peeled and diced the same size as the peppers
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 lb fresh Italian tomatoes, diced ½ inch
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- Balsamic vinegar to taste (approximately 1-2 Tbsp)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley (to garnish)
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, reduce heat to low and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic after about 15 minutes and cook another 5 minutes.
Add the peppers and cover the pan. After a few minutes, leave the cover slightly ajar until the peppers are browned, around 20 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally.
Add the diced tomatoes, then the black olives. Immediately sprinkle with some vinegar and let the liquid evaporate. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped parsley.
This dish can be served warm or at room temperature. It can also be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.